How did you become a writer?
I grew up thinking writers, like doctors and nuns, felt a calling deep in their souls. I never felt that calling, and writing a novel seemed impossible, so I didn't consider myself a writer--even though I wrote poetry and tons of ad copy. When I was 32, my youngest child stopped sleeping, and so did I. My brain... broke. I started hallucinating. When I asked my psychologist husband for help, he set up a schedule to ensure more sleep and suggested I find something creative to do just for me, like write a book. The part of my brain that firmly believed I couldn't write a book was too broken to fight it. I wrote my first book in 2009, queried it, shelved it, wrote another book, and found a literary agent by March 2010. My third book sold at auction in a three book deal and became Wicked as They Come. Once I'd written one book and knew it was possible, it became a compulsion. Before I became a novelist, I felt like there was something I was meant to do in life and I simply hadn't found it yet. Now I have.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
Stephen King's On Writing is the number one book that has influenced my writing. Before reading it I assumed that his first drafts were flawless. Once I understood that even the greats require revision, polishing, and outside help, I felt more confident in my own skills. Dr. Karen Lanning taught me how to write a research paper in 11th grade, and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander taught me that Romance wasn't just fluff. There's something to learn from every book, even if all you learn is why you threw it against the wall.
When and where do you write?
I'm lucky now-- both of my kids are in school. I do my best writing in the morning with a cup of coffee, but I make it a point not to let my writing routine become precious. As long as I have earbuds and my current book playlist, I can write almost anywhere. I especially love writing in airports.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm focused on launch day for HIT, which involves thanking people and interacting with new readers online. Once the excitement has subsided, I need to work on a horror story for an anthology and the sequel to Wake of Vultures, tentatively titled Horde of Crows.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
When I was younger and paralyzed by the fear of messing up, yes. I feel like writer's block is a great way to frame any excuse we use for not writing, just as "the Muse" is a scapegoat for our own brain's laziness. Writers under contract don't have the leisure to wait for a Muse to show up--if you want to pay the bills, you have to write. In a way, there's a beauty to that--if the writing doesn't have to be perfect and flawless and inspired, you can sit down anywhere, anytime, and write anything, then just fix it later. So I always suggest that the best way to get around writer's block is to accept that all first drafts are word vomit, then sit down, open the doc, and write it anyway.
What’s your advice to new writers?
To embrace imperfection and playfulness and write what makes you feel passionate without worrying about genre, qualifications, or talent. Writing, to me, is not this stiff and stilted exercise in constant one-upmanship. It's telling your story as only you can, providing entertainment and escape and connection. And finish your book-- one crappy first draft is worth more than a thousand perfect first pages.
Delilah S. Dawson is the author of HIT, Servants of the Storm, the Blud series, and short stories in the Carniepunk, Violent Ends, and Three Slices anthologies. Her next book is Wake of Vultures, written as Lila Bowen and out this October. She lives in Georgia with her husband and children and can be found online at www.whimsydark.com.